On Tuesday, the Bingham family and a group of about 100 supporters gathered at Louisville Public Media’s downtown headquarters to celebrate the dedication of our new newsroom, named for visionary Courier-Journal editor and publisher Barry Bingham Jr. C-J veteran Keith Runyon’s commentary below was part of the speech he delivered at the event.
Barry Bingham Jr., like his father and grandfather before him, understood the power and the promise of owning a newspaper of quality and substance. It was a time when the great journalists of America were household names.
And they deserved to be, because through their editorial pages and their news columns, they took courageous stands and exposed illegality, incompetence, impertinence and injustice.
They also hailed the grander things in life. Investigative journalism was just one thing that a newspaper provided. Serious coverage of the arts, profiles of people who mattered, and a simple record of everyday life were the very heart of the great newspapers of America, like The Courier-Journal.
I was privileged to spend most of my career in what seemed to be the most exhilarating aspect of Courier-Journalism: writing and editing opinion that reflected the resolute values of the Bingham family and their newspapers.
Our editorial page was always considered among the nation’s best in those years. And it was. Many readers may not have agreed with the views Barry had, but at least his well-researched and bold prose encouraged them to think.
I’ll offer just a few words that will make most of us remember: Watergate … Vietnam … mining safety … conservation … civil rights … Star Wars … Iran Contra … the Equal Rights Amendment … City-county merger … Busing … Red River Gorge dam … and the list goes on and on.
All of us who knew and loved Barry badly miss the kind of guidance that The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times gave us. Editorials shape a community. So did alternate points of view. We didn’t fear ruffling the feathers of advertisers or disagreeing politicians.
But what we wrote also sought to be civil, thoughtful and to reflect a progressive view encouraging Kentucky and Louisville to be more caring, more honest, more open and to approach things with a little bit of humor.
At Louisville Public Media, an institution Barry loved and supported until the end of his life, there is now a newsroom dedicated to him where energetic, idealistic and highly motivated journalists can practice the craft he loved so much.
He would love the amazing work of WFPL and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. And remember that WUOL was built in 1976 on the collection and transmitter of WHAS-FM, the all-classical music station that was Barry’s beloved contribution to the local arts scene.
I am certain that up in heaven, Barry is smiling his broad mustachioed smile and taking satisfaction that 30 years after The Courier-Journal was sold and a decade after his passing, he still will be a shining star for serving our city and state in a unique and courageous way at Louisville Public Media.
Keith Runyon is a longtime Louisville journalist and former editorial page editor of The Courier-Journal.